Lonely as a Cloud – a Pictorial Blog about Bulbs
Sometimes I take quite some time searching for biblical or literary quotations as titles but when I decided to do a blog about bulbs the source was obvious.
These are very familiar words.
I wandered lonely as a cloud,
That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils …
They come from the poem, ‘I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud’ by William Wordsworth, inspired by an actual walk with his sister. It’s one of the most well-known and well-loved English poems and is sometimes also known by the shorter title: Daffodils.
It has been hard to find where to put some topics when aspects of plant and animal life correspond to the seasons. I am never sure whether bulbs flower in late winter or early spring (perhaps it is both) so they are getting a blog to themselves.
I presume that storing food as bulbs enables these plants to flower before the warmth and light of spring and summer. I know little of botany and will more or less stick to pictures of our common species, in the order in which they normally flower, with some botanical notes from Wikipedia.
Snowdrops come under the genus Galanthus, which has about twenty species. Galanthus nivalis is the most common and widespread. We think of it as a native British wild flower but it was probably introduced in the early Sixteenth Century. First recorded as naturalized in Gloucestershire and Worcestershire in 1770, it’s generally a woodland species but now it is frequent in gardens and parks.
Wikipedia says that crocuses have corms, not bulbs but in horticultural terms we can count corms as bulbs!
When I was young I just remember the large ones that were purple, white or yellow. They are among my favourite flowers, particularly the purple and yellow ones.
There are many species of Crocus, of which about thirty are cultivated, including Crocus sativus for saffron. Only five species are commonly planted for decoration in the UK. Each has horticultural varieties. I will start with the familiar ones and use Wikipedia to guess at species.
The familiar large yellow ones could be C. Flavus.
The large plain purple or white ones are probably C. vernus.
Maybe even this blue one.
Those are the only ones I remember from my youth. We now have lots more varieties, mostly smaller or thinner, some with delicate lilac colouring. Between them they may be C. chrysanthus, C. sieberi or C. tommasinianus but I will leave identification of the following pictures up to you.
The honey bee was a bit of a bonus!
In Greek mythology, Narcissus was a hunter known for his beauty. He was proud and disdained those who loved him. Nemesis noticed this behaviour and lured him to a pool, where he saw his own reflection in the water and fell in love with it, not realizing it was merely an image. He lost his will to live, staring at his reflection until he died.
I wanted to say that he was turned in to a narcissus flower but Wikipedia is less precise. The word has come to be used for the flower but it seems that it is not certain whether the flower is named after the myth, or the myth from the flower, or even if there is any connection at all!
He is, of course the origin of the self-fixation known as narcissism. (I mean – the words are cognate. He was just a story.)
Daffodils and Narcissus
There are many species of Narcissus and Wikipedia is a bit coy about which of them are Daffodils saying merely that some species of the genus are sometimes known as daffodils.
To me a daffodil has an all-yellow flower with a distinctive elongated shape. Narcissus includes daffodils and all the other colourations and shapes. (I won’t use the word jonquil, which seem to a be flatter shaped Narcissus, mostly white.)
Anyway, there are several species and many varieties. The one that grows wild in the UK (but was probably introduced long ago) is N. pseudonarcissus, the Wild Daffodil or Lent Lily, flowering up to around Easter (mid-April.)
Here are some pictures of some varieties I have seen this year. I will not even guess at species.
I haven’t found a large ‘cloud’ of daffodils yet but there are some larger areas full of daffodils. We have them along pavements and on roundabouts and spare little bits of open land in town.
Hyacinth and Muscaris
We see expanses of apparently wild snowdrops and daffodils but the Hyacinth is essentially a domesticated plant. You can see some in gardens but often they are grown indoors as pot plants. They even come in kit form as suitable for Christmas presents.
Hyacinthus orientalis is of Asian origin but widely cultivated in Europe. Wikipedia says that is flowers are purple but to me the main colours are blue, white or pink. There are many varieties.
The Muscaris (also known as a grape hyacinth) is in the same family as the hyacinth – the family named from one of its other members, asparagus!
They are probably Muscari neglectum, one of several species with small blue flowers. They have become a plant sometimes seen in the wild but also often grown in gardens.
I will end with the Tulip, very much a cultivated plant. Its taxonomy is complicated with about 75 species and horticulturally it has over three thousand varieties in fifteen groups. We sometimes have them now as cut flowers with long stems.
I won’t cover all 3000 types. Here are some pictures of tulips seen in local gardens.
I’m issuing this blog at the beginning of the tulip season. I may sneak in some more tulip pictures into other blogs.